Arroyo Grande High School's choir program is under threat of closing next year, after years of dwindling student participation and the retirement of the school's longtime choir teacher.
- File Photo By Steve E. Miller
- NO CHOIR? Arroyo Grande High School's choir program is under threat of closing next year.
Parent Kim Carrington found out about the possible cancellation of the program from her daughter when she came home from work on May 24. Carrington's daughter, an eighth grader in the Lucia Mar Unified School District, has been working with a counselor to schedule courses for her freshman year at Arroyo Grande High School, and said school staff recently informed her that choir wouldn't be available next year.
Carrington said her daughter is a lifelong music lover and had been planning to take an elective choir course even at the expense of her summer vacation. She planned to take a health class early this summer, specifically, to free up space in her schedule for choir.
"So she's been passionate about music her entire life," Carrington said.
That's particularly true when it comes to singing. Carrington said her daughter's first solo was at a talent show in the first grade. She's been active in a local church choir since the second grade, and she participates in school choirs whenever the option is offered. She was devastated when school staff told her about the loss of Arroyo Grande High School's program.
"Then I started asking around," Carrington said, "and it was like no one knew this was happening."
Carrington rallied some other parents to send emails questioning the decision to the Lucia Mar board of education and superintendent. They discovered that longtime Arroyo Grande High School choir teacher Chris Bledsoe recently retired from his position and student interest in the choir program has been dwindling for years. Currently only a handful of students are signed up to take choir during the 2021-22 school year. After a year of online classes, Carrington said, she's not surprised there's not a lot of interest in a program like choir.
"So to me the real issue is how do we build that program back up so we don't lose it?" she said.
Now the district is planning to recruit a new choir teacher to fill the vacancy left by Bledsoe in hopes of saving the course for at least another year, according to district spokesperson Amy Jacobs. But finding a qualified applicant after a retirement this late in the school year is often a challenge for school districts.
"We're planning to fly the opening and search for a qualified candidate to fill the position," Jacobs wrote in a statement to New Times.
Superintendent Paul Fawcett and Arroyo Grande High Principal Dan Neff could not be reached before press time. Δ